BERLIN, CT (WFSB) -- Frustration over an Eversource rate hike has sparked a larger conversation over electricity rates in Connecticut.
In response to the increase, upset customers rallied outside the Eversource headquarters in Berlin on Friday afternoon.
On the same day, the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) has issued a letter saying it is temporarily suspending approved rate increases, and orders the company to "immediately restore rates to those in effect as of June 30, 2020," saying it should happen specifically as soon as practicable, but no later than Aug. 7, 2020.
PURA also said on Friday that they will "reexamine the administrative changes to the energy and transmission adjustment clauses provisionally permitted by its June 26, 2020 letter."
"The intent of this reexamination is to ensure that Eversource is not over-collecting revenues in the short term at the expense of ratepayers during this period of financial hardship," PURA said.
Eversource said later in the day that the company will work over the weekend to revert its rates to the June figures.
Connecticut residents pay the highest electricity rates in the country.
So, Wednesday's decision by PURA to review Eversource’s July 1 rate hike could prove to be a win for residents.
Lawmakers have also asked PURA to consider undoing the increase.
Meanwhile, Attorney General William Tong and U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal are pushing back against costs mandated by federal regulators.
Tong said he also plans to appeal to PURA against the Eversource hike.
“We are analyzing every avenue and we are leaving no stone unturned to fight these rate hikes,” Tong said.
Gov. Ned Lamont applauded the suspension of the rate increase saying, “Today’s decision by PURA is good news for ratepayers across our state. PURA’s pause today on delivery rate hikes reassures our residents that the reconsideration of requests by utilities can happen, and – most importantly of all – that customers won’t be overpaying in the meantime. At the same time, we have reinvigorated our pressure on the federal government to address long-standing frustrations with federally-mandated delivery charges.”
PURA has already sent a list of questions to Eversource, giving the company until Aug. 13 to respond.
Friday morning, Eversource issued a press release saying it is working with customers to help reduce bills through "customer care programs."
“We share the concerns of our customers and know that this is an unexpected cause of distress during an already challenging time,” said Eversource Senior Vice President and Chief Customer Officer Penni Conner. “We’re committed to working one-on-one with customers to help reduce their energy bills and to provide flexible payment solutions. Our customer care number is 800-286-2000, and we’re here to help any customer who calls.”
Eversource maintains that the higher than normal bills were driven primarily by an increase in summer energy use, due to higher temperatures.
"We're providing an essential service, so customer, I know, value that we're delivering safe and reliable power," said Penni McLean-Connor, Senior Vice President and Chief Customer Service Officer of Eversource.
It also includes two recent fee increases added to the delivery component of the bill, saying “a state-mandated energy subsidy went into effect in July to support the Millstone Nuclear Power Plant’s continued operation. Also, another fee increased to support grid reliability and the safe operation of Eversource’s high-voltage transmission system.”
Earlier this week, Dominion Energy, which owns the Millstone Plant, said Eversource is not telling the whole story.
In an email to Channel 3, their spokesperson said, "The power is being sold at a flat rate of 4.999 cents per kilowatt hour, the lowest price for carbon free resource in Connecticut published to date and 32 percent lower than the lowest standard offer price ever from Eversource, which is roughly 7 cents per kilowatt hour. This contract went into effect in October 2019, nine months before Eversource's latest rate increases. It was vetted and approved by all state energy regulators."
The company says anyone needing financial assistance should contact them at 800-286-2000 or click here.